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Jump Back in Time Western Expansion & Reform (1829-1859)
Drawing of 'Joseph Jefferson as Rip Van Winkle.
Joseph Jefferson as the beloved character, Rip Van Winkle

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Comic Actor Joseph Jefferson Was Born
February 20, 1829

In 1859, Jefferson starred in a stage production of Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle, the story of a man who falls into a magical 20-year sleep and wakes to find he has slumbered through the Revolutionary War. Although the play was fairly successful, Jefferson thought it could be better. He hired a writer to create another version of the play, and in 1865, Jefferson played Rip Van Winkle before London audiences for 170 nights in a row. One year later, Jefferson returned to the United States. Americans loved his portrayal of Rip Van Winkle so much that Jefferson never created another role for himself.

Joseph Jefferson remained one of the most popular comic actors in America through the end of the 19th century. What wonderful career do you feel destined to pursue?

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